We often think of criminal charges for violence and cruelty as protections for people. However, many laws aim to prevent cruelty and abuse toward animals. Whether pets or livestock, animals play significant roles in our daily lives. Cruelty to animals is not tolerated by law enforcement and may be met with harsh criminal charges.
Charges for cruelty to animals may apply under a variety of circumstances. Some situations, like violent animal fights or torture of animals, are charged as felonies. Other acts considered animal cruelty might be less obvious, like failing to provide adequate care for a house pet.
If you are charged with a crime related to animal cruelty, you should speak to an attorney immediately. Our Salt Lake City animal cruelty defense lawyers can help you fight your charge and protect your reputation. Call Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287 and ask about a free initial case evaluation.
What Is Animal Cruelty in Salt Lake City?
The way the law in Utah defines animal cruelty, a wide variety of crimes and abuse could lead to criminal charges. According to Utah Code § 76-9-301, animal cruelty may consist of intentional, reckless, or negligent behavior toward animals that results in some harm or injury. For example, the law states that failure to provide food and water to an animal in your care is a criminal offense. It may also be a criminal offense to intentionally injure an animal, such as hitting or kicking it.
We may keep animals for various reasons, and the law carves out rules for various kinds of animals. Of course, the law applies to pet cats, dogs, which the statute calls “companion animals.” However, animal cruelty laws also apply to animals that we do not necessarily consider pets or parts of our family. Livestock and service animals are also protected by animal cruelty laws in Salt Lake City. Criminal charges do not apply where a person had a legal privilege to kill or slaughter an animal, like a farmer or licensed hunter. Our Salt Lake City animal cruelty defense attorneys can help you determine if your actions are criminal offenses.
Animal cruelty laws apply to situations where a person has custody and control over an animal. However, criminal charges may also apply in cases involving wild animals. While custody or control is sometimes obvious when someone owns a dog or cat, it is unclear in other situations. Can they be charged with animal cruelty if a person refuses to feed or provide water for a stray cat? If prosecutors wish to press charges, they must establish that you were responsible for caring for an animal.
Criminal Charges for Animal Cruelty in Salt Lake City
Standard animal cruelty charges include failing to provide necessary care for an animal within your custody and control. For example, you could be charged for failing to provide food, water, shelter, or other care for your companion animal. You may also be charged for abandoning an animal or causing animals to fight for sport or amusement. If you believe your charges are unjust, speak to our Salt Lake City animal cruelty defense attorneys immediately.
Animal cruelty is charged as a Class C misdemeanor if you are alleged to have acted with negligence and may be punished by a jail term of up to 90 days for each charge. If your actions were intentional, it is a Class B misdemeanor, which may be penalized with a jail term of no more than 6 months. Multiple animal cruelty charges could easily add up to significant jail time.
Aggravated cruelty to animals is a different charge that applies in more severe situations. Charges for aggravated cruelty to an animal are assessed when a person tortures, poisons, or otherwise kills an animal without authorization.
Aggravated cruelty to animals may be charged as a Class C misdemeanor if it is committed with negligence, a Class B misdemeanor if committed recklessly, and a Class A misdemeanor if committed intentionally. A Class A misdemeanor may be punished by up to 364 days in jail per charge. However, if a defendant is alleged to have intentionally tortured a companion animal, they may be charged with a third-degree felony and sent to state prison for up to 5 years.
There are also specific criminal charges for arranged animal fights. Not only is it illegal to arrange animal fights, but it is also illegal to own equipment or facilities used to train animals to fight. You may also be criminally charged simply for being a spectator at an animal fighting event.
Enhanced Penalties for Animal Cruelty Convictions in Salt Lake City
Depending on your circumstances, your charges for animal cruelty may be enhanced, and the penalties made harsher. Under Utah Code § 76-9-301.7, a defendant with a previous conviction for certain animal cruelty offenses may have their current charges upgraded. Call our Salt Lake City animal cruelty defense attorneys for help fighting enhancements or upgraded charges.
Typically, a penalty enhancement bumps Class C misdemeanors up to Class B misdemeanors, and Class B misdemeanors to Class A. If you are already charged with a Class A misdemeanor or higher, your charges are not upgraded further under this statute. It is also worth noting that the law does not specify a specific number of years for a prior offense. You could have been previously convicted 1 year ago or 10 years ago. As long as there is a previous conviction on your record, your penalties can be enhanced.
How Do I Fight Animal Cruelty Charges in Salt Lake City?
Animal cruelty charges typically apply in cases where a defendant had custody and control over an animal. However, certain circumstances may be exempt from criminal charges. There are crucial elements of animal cruelty that our Salt Lake City animal cruelty defense lawyers can challenge to get your charges dropped or dismissed hopefully.
Some situations may appear to be animal cruelty, but the acts involved are legally sanctioned or authorized. For example, a veterinarian who provides painful but necessary medical treatment to an animal would not be charged with animal cruelty. A rancher or farmer who slaughters livestock for food, or a hunter who shoots an animal for food, would similarly be exempt from criminal charges. Scientists performing bona fide scientific experimentation and research are also exempt.
Remember, these people’s behavior must be legally authorized and within certain legal parameters. For example, a person cannot just walk into the woods, begin shooting animals and call themselves a hunter. They must abide by hunting laws and have any necessary permits or licenses. A veterinarian must be licensed to practice, and a scientist must have proper authorization to perform their experiments.
If these exceptions do not apply to you, we can still challenge the charges against you. For example, if you did not have control or custody over an animal – like a wild animal – charges might not stick. If control or custody is not an issue, we can debate whether your actions rise to the level of cruelty.
For example, you might have needed to euthanize a sick pet but had no access to a vet who could put the animal to sleep. You instead put the animal down yourself, albeit in the most humane way you knew how, and ended up charged with animal cruelty. We can argue your intentions were not malicious but humane, and you should not be charged.
Speak to Our Salt Lake City Animal Cruelty Attorneys for Assistance
Our Salt Lake City animal cruelty defense lawyers can help you fight your charges and clear your name if you are facing animal cruelty charges. Contact our legal team at Overson & Bugden and ask about a free initial case evaluation. Call us at (801) 758-2287 today.